Moves, additions and changes to a network are fraught with the potential for errors. Even a small mistake like unplugging the wrong patch cable can have massive network implications, causing downtime that can prove to be difficult to undo and can be just as costly. With Gartner estimating that network outages typically cost an average of $300,000 per hour precision and accuracy within an organizations change management processes are a must to avoid these unneeded costs as well as the aforementioned network outages.If the $300 an hour estimate seems steep, consider what would happen in an industry like retail if a main part of an organizations data center network were to go offline. Traffic to the company website would be halted, making it impossible for online shoppers to interact with the organization and potentially costing the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost sales and damaging customer perception and trust. This is not taking the internal productivity losses into account, either, as the refocusing of internal resources to deal with unscheduled work would cause a catastrophic disruption in day to day operations.
Change management best practices can go a long way toward avoiding network outages and the associated damages like the situation describe above. Here are five ways change management can help organizations achieve a more stable network and avoid unneeded outages:
1. Map Out Proposed Changes
Planning plays a vital role in change management, and mapping out network changes in detail plays a key role in avoiding network and systems downtime. Having a clearly designed network change plan gives you key insight into how each specific change will end up impacting the network as a whole. Changing even just a few network components can have huge implications on how data moves through a system. Carefully planning and assessing every move, add or change will help ensure the proposed changes will have the least amount of unexpected consequences as possible.
2. Peer Review of Proposed Change
Peer reviews can be an invaluable part of a company's operational culture. Your IT teams can't afford to wait around on managerial approval for every change; however the risk that comes with changes that are not properly evaluated can lead to disastrous consequences. Peer review (and a proper Change Advisory Board, or CAB) can be the best way to work around these problems. Having your IT staff work in teams to plan changes and review each other's work can help to eliminate human errors and make sure that no individual is wholly responsible for key decisions.
3. Review Current Network Values
Performance and reliability specifications, network maps, hardware details and other critical network values provide key insights into how your system operates. Network values help you see exactly how your system functions, providing the ability to go beyond raw observations about your system and providing the ability get into the details of how proposed changes will impact your configuration.
4. Take and Keep Backups
Being able to revert to earlier network configurations that are verified as operational plays a vital role in minimizing the impact of downtime. If a change goes wrong, having a backup available, coupled with a list of changes that occurred through change management, lets you quickly revert to prior, verified values. Keep in mind, simply taking a backup of your configuration is only part of the process as you need to file that backup systematically to ensure you can access it quickly during a downtime event and get your network running as normal.
5. Automate to Eliminate External Sources of Error
To err is human, with the risk of possible missteps escalating with each tedious, manual task that is done. Automating repeated processes involved in network changes can not only eliminate the tedious strain on your employees but also help to minimize human error, leaving your employees more available and more engaged when tackling the complex processes that do need a human touch.
Network downtime can be disastrous for a business but peer reviews, analyzing network settings, and effective change management practices can go a long way toward empowering organizations to avoid network downtime.